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How To Read Piano Sheet and Notes Like A Pro: Part 2

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Welcome to part two of our blog series on how to read piano sheet music! In the first part of our blog, we learnt about:

  • Stave (or staff)

  • Note values (Semibreves, Minims, Crotchets)

  • Treble Clef and how to read treble clef notes

In this second part we will learn about:

Reading Notes On A Bass Clef

The Bass Clef is often associated with the left hand in sheet music for piano players. (It is not always the case, but it would be good to assume so if you are just beginning to learn to read sheet music). In the illustration of an actual piano sheet music below, you will see two different staves with different clefs.

The stave on top is written in Treble Clef, and is to be played by the piano player's right hand, and the stave in the bottom is written in Bass clef, and is to be played by the piano player's left hand.

In order to read the notes on a bass clef, you'd first want to familiarize yourself with where middle C is on a bass clef. Refer to the illustration below, on the left

By knowing where middle C on a bass clef is, you can figure out any other note on a bass clef by counting down the stave. See illustration above, on the right. Once again, notice that as you climb down the stave, it is done by step, in a line-space-line-space manner; be careful not to skip steps! Also note that this time round, as you are climbing down the stave, each subsequent note will follow the alphabetical order in reverse.

With this knowledge, you should now be able to figure out any note on a bass clef, by counting down from the middle C note. Let's put this into action. Consider the following music excerpt:

If we were trying to determine the first note in the above excerpt, here's how we can do it:

Step 1: Copy the note in question to an empty stave and write a middle C note beside it to compare it side by side. (See illustration below)

Step 2: Climb down the stave to get from middle C to the note in question. Be sure to do this by step, in a line-space-line-space manner. (see illustration below

Step 3: Label the each subsequent note according to the alphabetical order in reverse. (recall that since we are climbing down the stave, the order of the notes is the alphabet in reverse; e.g. one note below 'C', would be 'B') Refer to the illustration below

From the above illustration, you can see that the note in question is F. Hence, by counting down from middle C, we are able to figure out any note we want on a bass clef stave.

Reading Bass Clef Notes A Little Faster - "All Cows Eat Grass"

Although we managed to figure out the bass clef note in question, one can easily see how this is a tedious process, especially with notes that are further away from middle C. Therefore, as with our reading of Treble Clef notes in Part 1 (click here if you have not yet read part 1), it would be helpful to remember more reference points to count from. For Bass Clef, the notes in the spaces are 'A', 'C', 'E', 'G'. An easy way to remember this is 'All Cows Eat Grass'. (See illustration below)

This would give you more reference points to count from when you are trying to figure out a note in bass clef. Let's try out with an example. Recall the excerpt from before: